The second was the end of a year celebrating the 150 years since the arrival of the first resident Bishop of Maitland, Bishop James Murray in 1866.
A large gathering of parishioners from all parts of the diocese took place in Sacred Heart Cathedral yesterday as a beautiful liturgy marked the final celebration of these two remarkable events.
The Year of Mercy was a hallmark of Pope Francis’s papacy to date. In his first Papal exhortation Evangelii Gaudium he outlined his vision for the Church, a vision that was steeped in Mercy.
The Diocese of Maitland–Newcastle certainly took Francis’s call to heart, recruiting the services of Fr Richard Shortall, one of only two Australian Missionaries of Mercy commissioned by the Pope to proclaim the Year of Mercy to all corners of our diocese.
Yesterday’s liturgy celebrated not only Fr Richard’s work in this year but also that of so many across the diocese, especially the work of groups such as the St Vincent de Paul Society, Catholic Care, the Religious Orders, Catholic Mission, Caritas and so many more.
The focus on the Year of Mercy during the latter part of 2015 and 2016 has been an enriching experience in the diocese and I have seen many examples of this important aspect of the gospels being lived out in our schools. The engagement of staff and students in expressing mercy in their school communities and beyond has been very evident.
The celebration of the 150 years since the arrival of Bishop Murray has also been a resounding success, enabling us to reflect on the history of the diocese, its achievements and its sorrows. From a Catholic Schools perspective, Bishop Murray’s dream of a Catholic school system that would provide for the Catholic families of the diocese but also be open to all those who sought a Catholic education has certainly been achieved and continues to grow.
As we prepare for the new Liturgical Year it is opportune to reflect on the Year of Mercy so that it is not confined to the history books but continues to be a part of our daily lives.
The words of one of the hymns sung yesterday, Circle of Mercy, highlight the ongoing focus of our lives if we are to live up to Jesus message of mercy.
In Mercy, we touch the hearts of those who are in mis’ry
In Mercy, we’re touched by them and feel their strength and courage.
In Mercy, we heal the pain of those who are in sorrow.
In Mercy, we’re healed by them and see the face of hope
In Mercy, we welcome those the world has left rejected.
In Mercy, we’re drawn within the loving heart of God.
In Mercy, we forgive the incompleteness in another
In Mercy, our sins are healed and we are whole again.